In my AP English Literature class we are currently discussing the ideas of existentialism. At first I hated existentialism. Waiting for Godot was probably the strangest, most confusing play I have ever [attempted] to read and, for the most part, strange and confusing are not the two adjectives I’d use to describe my favorite pieces of literature.
However, then we read The Stranger. All of a sudden existentialism and absurdism did not seem quite so absurd and far-fetched to me. Although it at first didn’t seem like it, these crazy authors had a point. I’m not sure if any of you have read The Stranger but basically it’s about this man who isn’t inherently evil but just doesn’t have that many strong feelings about anything and somehow, due to being in the wrong place at the wrong time, kills a man.
Camus, the author of The Stranger, characterizes Meursault (the main character) as a detached, slightly confused individual angry at society and not at all in touch with his own emotions. He doesn’t get the point of striving for more when you’re already content. Likewise, Meursault scoffs at people who search for meaning when he believes there is no meaning to be found. Strangely enough, much of the same can be said for the modern high school individual. A lot of my friends are currently going through the “I already got into college so what is the point of school phase.” I’m sure that this also holds true for anyone who has landed a job at a successful company or someone who is so rich that working another day in his or her life would be a tiny bit pointless. However, then I asked myself, isn’t the point of life to live it to its fullest extent? Doesn’t that mean that we should strive for the absolute best, and if, maybe, we never even achieve our potential? Isn’t there always more we can do? Meursault, and many people today, do not see the point in living a life unsatisfied. In the world of Meursault, and many teenagers I know, anyone who is comfortable and content no longer needs to strive for more. In the mind of Meursault, there is no deeper meaning, so stop struggling to find it and instead become content with the life you’re living now.
Our assignment was to make something creative that somehow reflected an idea of existentialism. I, of course, chose to do a painting. I think it is a good representation of the struggle to find meaning and how, in the mind of an existentialist, meaning can never be fully grasped or even found. The random horse is included because my teacher is obsessed with horses and I am looking for some brownie points.